digitalswitzerland is pleased to present new research conducted by AMOSA (Arbeitsmarktbeobachtung Ostschweiz, Aargau, Zug und Zürich) on career changers who choose to re-skill or upskill in ICT professions. digitalswitzerland concludes that career changers are an important segment of the ICT labour market that need more attention.

The problem of the shortage of skilled workers in ICT professions will not solve itself – new forms of career entry are needed. In this context, career changers are of great importance, as a new publication by AMOSA shows.

In 2020, around 243,000 people were employed in ICT occupations in Switzerland. Since 2010, ICT employment has seen an impressive growth of around 50%, compared to an average growth of only 10% in all non-ICT occupations. Despite this tremendous growth, there is a high demand for ICT professionals.

According to current forecasts by the Institute for Economic Studies (IWSB), the future demand for ICT specialists cannot be met either by immigration or by the Swiss education system. It is clear that lateral entrants are in demand. To create a sustainable path for a successful transition into the growing ICT industry, it is worth taking a look at some key figures.

High proportion of career changers in ICT professions

Career changers in ICT professions are surprisingly common. Only one in three ICT professionals originally started their careers in the same profession. While some of them came from related ICT professions, nearly half of ICT professionals began their careers outside the ICT field.

The significance of these figures can be seen in a direct comparison with other professions, which are also affected by a shortage of skilled workers: Among the 25 occupations with the highest shortage of skilled workers, the proportion of career changers reaches just 37 percentage points. This shows two things: First, ICT is and will remain a sector with a promising future. Second, the doors in ICT are open and the profiles are diverse.

Great variability between ICT professions

Although career mobility in ICT professions is widespread compared to other professions, there are still significant differences between the various ICT professions: Career changes are very common today, for example, among instructors in the field of information technology (proportion of career changers: 93%), managers in the field of ICT services (91%) or technicians for ICT operations and user support (86%). In contrast, graphic and multimedia designers are comparatively more likely to remain in their originally learned profession – only 42% are career changers.

Where do career changers come from?

A striking diversity of original occupations can be observed among career changers. Apart from workers who were initially trained in another ICT occupation, a significant proportion of today’s software and application developers or analysts originally began their careers in related technical fields, for example, as engineers (13%) or electrical installers and mechanics (3%), but also in non-technical occupations as office clerks (3%) or business administration specialists (3%).

Among those now working as ICT operations and user support technicians, transitions from other ICT occupations are common: Many workers originally learned a profession in software and application developers or analysts (10%) or other ICT professionals (8%). However, career changes from non-technical occupations such as office administrator (9%) or salesperson (3%) also occur relatively frequently.

A significant proportion of these occupational changes are transitions from occupations with similar skill levels and require retraining rather than upskilling. But transitions from occupations with lower or higher skill levels are not uncommon either – especially among those who now work as ICT operations and user support technicians. The fact is: with targeted re-skilling or upskilling, new pathways into IT can open up for less qualified employees.

Important factors: gender and age

While older age groups and women are (still) underrepresented in ICT occupations, they are more likely than younger age groups and men to have come to this field from occupations unrelated to the subject.

This is an indication of the urgency of promoting women in STEM fields (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, technology). This is because women can be recruited for computer science even from professions outside the field: the potential for women to enter the field in Switzerland is therefore high. With targeted support for girls in STEM fields, this potential could be tapped at an earlier stage – turning career changers into entrants.The differences between the age groups can be explained primarily by the fact that older workers have been in the workforce longer and have therefore had more time for reorientation and further training. In addition, the hurdles for career changers may have increased in recent years due to more specific and higher job requirements.

This is why Lifelong learning becomes all the more important. The numbers show: The need is great, but so are the demands. But a career change is feasible.

How is digitalswitzerland supporting Lifelong Learning?

Ensuring a high-performing digital workforce of the future drives our activities. Education and lifelong learning sit at the heart of this. We are committed to offering easily accessible resources in upskilling, reskilling and training. We also work to spotlight the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) when it comes to our future skilled workforce. Supporting learners of all ages is a key commitment of our mission to make Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub.

Offers from digitalswitzerland such as the platform and the Boost Programme provide the necessary support for this.

More Information on AMOSA and their latest publications can be found here.